Paradise Pier offers a casual atmosphere, delightful interiors and lighthearted décor of our boardwalk-inspired rooms for visitors to Disneyland. A perfect fit for families looking for a place to stay. (DISNEY photo)
The past 10 months have held two milestone celebrations for Dale and me. Our 50th wedding anniversary was spent in Nashville being awestruck by the Opryland Hotel and by the gracious southern hospitality as we ventured farther south into Jack Daniels country.
Last week was another milestone celebration — Dale’s birthday. Where would be the best place for a party?
How about Disneyland.
On Saturday, we, including our daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters, drove to Portland for a bit of shopping before traveling on to Southern California the next day.
While planning our trip, Cindy at Alegre Travel recommended we fly Jet Blue, which allowed one free checked bag for each of us. The flight at 7 a.m. was nonstop to Long Beach, Calif., and took a little over two hours. When we arrived at the hotel, Dale received a “Celebrating a Birthday” button with his name on it and the party began.
Our room wasn’t ready but we were, so our baggage was left at the check stand and off we went to explore Downtown Disney. Our first stop was at the Rain Forest Café for lunch. Here Dale realized this was going to be one constant celebration in the Magic Kingdom. After our lunch the waiter brought Dale a dessert called the Sparkling Volcano (slabs of chocolate brownie filled with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauces with a topping of whipped cream) which was more than enough for the six of us. A sugar high kicked in as we headed for the Monorail and our passage into Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. Something magical happens when one enters Disneyland — all cares are forgotten and the inner child takes over. Having fun is ultimate. It was spring vacation and the crowds of people were like giant amoebas flowing toward a destination. One had to be careful not to get sucked into a mass going the opposite direction.
The closest ride, Autopia, beckoned Papa, Dad and the two girls, with the young ones doing the driving, of course. As soon as that ride was over our daughter and her husband wanted to go on Space Mountain, but the girls vetoed that and went with Dale and me to Fantasyland for a flight with Peter Pan and a trip on the canal boats through Storybook Land. My love of miniatures make this one of my favorites because I so appreciate the craftsmanship of the small houses that are enhanced by landscaping of bonsai trees over 50 years old. Next we watched a colorful parade of Disney characters followed by a trip on the Disneyland Railroad to New Orleans Square for dinner at the Café Orleans. We were then ready for a tour through the Haunted Mansion and the favorite ride, Pirates of the Caribbean. All day, Disney employees and total strangers had been wishing Dale birthday greetings. As our “sugar high” had worn off, we headed back to the hotel only to find a party set up in our room. Our son and his family had arranged for a birthday cake plus a gift basket for Dale to greet us upon arrival. While we stoked up on sugar energy for the next day we enjoyed the nightly fireworks display over Disneyland.
The next day started early as we had an early entry pass and that meant being ready to enter the park by 8 a.m. This was our day to spend in California Adventure just across from Disneyland and the location of my favorite ride — Soarin’ Over California. It is a 4 minute 52 second simulated hang glider tour over several California landmarks complete with scents of pine and citrus, when appropriate, via a film on a mammoth concave projection screen. We were there during a slack time so were able to do the ride twice without having to stand in line. That made my day! Next we headed for the newest attraction, Cars Land. This is a 12- acre attraction with a main street set in downtown Radiator Springs of the 2006 film “Cars”. For those of us who enjoyed the ’50s, this was a trip down memory lane with the teepee motel rooms and the drive-in soda shop. Being there in the evening when they turned on the neon advertising lights was a real treat.
When we visited Disneyland five years ago our granddaughters were on the constant lookout for princesses in order to get pictures and autographs. This time the rides were the ultimate goal with the Grizzly River Run, a whitewater raft adventure with the good chance of getting soaked, being a favorite. One granddaughter took this ride five times during the three days we were there. I was quite content to people watch and hold the others’ belongings so they didn’t get wet.
Disneyland is truly “The Happiest Place on Earth.” There were hoards of people of all ages, nationalities and sizes and they all were having fun. I can honestly say that I never heard a negative word spoken even when everyone in a party was tired or hungry. People were courteous even when standing in line for up to two hours just to take a four or five minute ride. No one threw trash on the ground or pushed or shoved. Disney takes special care to make sure that everything is kept clean and well maintained, and flower beds never show wilted or dead flowers. There is a pride in their product and it carries over to the visitors. We could all take a lesson from this.
Three days of pure fun ended with the new World of Color show at the Paradise Pier. It is a beautiful combination of dancing waters and film featuring various Disney beloved characters projected onto a water mist. Thousands of visitors watched in awe as this 30-minute presentation ended their activity-packed day.
Dale had experienced thrills, birthday greetings, laughter and love for three days and it was time for us to return to La Grande exhausted and yet revitalized.
As you walk downtown La Grande greet those you meet with a smile and see if it doesn’t make something magical happen. Enjoy!